Al-Ahram Weekly Online   7 - 13 October 2004
Issue No. 711
Reader's corner
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Letters to the Editor


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Alternate reflections

Sir- I would like to forward a few comments on Yasser Al-Zaatrah's article 'Snatched from the jaws of victory', ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 Sept -- 6 Oct), in which he used many events and sources to draw an erroneous conclusion regarding the Intifada and offer us a theory that boils down to a mambo-jumbo.

1. Israel has no place to go; therefore it is destined to fight for its survival as long as needed.

2. A majority of the Israeli populous has supported a withdrawal from both Gaza and the West Bank way before the armed Intifada began.

3. While in the past only a minority of Israelis would have declared themselves as "Arab Haters", large sections of Israeli society lost faith in peace with the Palestinians, and now openly hate anything Arab or Muslim. This is the worst consequence for both peoples, but especially for the Palestinians.

3. The Israeli society is already numb from 56 years of war. More of the same won't bring it down.

4. Historically, most armed struggles end in compromise-not victory. The damage caused to Palestinian society (especially the children) is enormous and will take decades to repair if not more. Palestinians are losing a whole generation to severe psychological trauma that would make their kids unfit for normal life, and would likely impact their children as well.

5. So far, despite hysterical claims by many Palestinians of "genocide", Israel has resorted to a relatively restrained military response due to a combination of geopolitical realities and its moral makeup. However, it would be a mistake not to consider that a total war with the Palestinians could still break out if Israel is pushed hard enough. That would bode a disaster for the Palestinians for generations to come; what would eventually be likely called the "Third Nakba".

5. Finally, the writer apparently lives in Amman. It is always easier to let others be courageous and die for something you believe in.

Jon Birion
New York
USA


Misconceptions

Sir- Regarding the article 'An elegant exit from Iraq' by John V Whitbeck, ( Al-Ahram Weekly, 30 Sept -- 6 Oct), which outlined a so-called "face-saving departure for American troops from Iraq" was essentially nothing but a mildly interesting intellectual fantasy because the main premise, that America is in a dire situation in Iraq, is a fiction. The idea that problems with the occupation of Iraq could threaten America is no more realistic than bleeding to death from a rose-thorn scratch.

To make this clear consider that combat deaths in Iraq are about equal to murder victims in New York. Should the US withdraw from New York? An even more compelling comparison for most Americans is to the 3000 lost on 9/11. But if it's not blood than maybe the drain on the US treasury will prove to be too much to bear. Two words: get serious. Does anyone really think the US can't afford to keep less than 200,000 troops in Iraq? And how much of the budgeted $87 billion has actually been spent?

In the end wishful thinking that America will suddenly change its mind and quit in the Middle East does a disservice to the Arab world. But an equal disservice is thinking Arabs have no power over their own destiny. Sure there are horribly tough issues to face but we could face and solve them together. One positive outcome of this whole mess is that Americans are now genuinely interested in the nuances of Arab public opinion. Why do you think I read your paper? I need a balance to the cartoonish views presented in the major US media. Keep up the good work.

Steve Foot
Memphis
USA


Indigenous reconstruction

Sir- The brutal violence in Iraq requires not only accelerating the training of indigenous security forces, but giving the Iraqi people the responsibility for their own communities' reconstruction. If the United States strongly supported the indigenous reconstruction of Iraq, whereby local communities implement projects that respond to their self-described needs, critical socio-economic benefits for tens of thousands of households may become apparent in just a few months.

Indigenous reconstruction has shown remarkable outcomes in communities around the world because local people have a strong incentive to maintain the projects they create (such as in education, health, business, agriculture, and environment). For the process to work, however, independent facilitators are needed to catalyse dialogue within a community on its reconstruction priorities. The Iraqi interim government, with the support of the international community, especially the United States, should thus immediately begin training thousands of Iraqi school teachers, government and NGO personnel, and community members in facilitation methods. Newly trained facilitators can then return to their communities, organise meetings, and help set in motion an indigenous reconstruction process. The interim Iraqi government should also create "community reconstruction planning and training centres". These locally managed centres assist communities in determining their priority goals and then in designing and implementing projects to achieve them. As people fulfil their own interests, their zone of tolerance also expands because the underlying conditions that fuel extremism are being directly addressed.

If communities are fully engaged in the design, implementation, and management of reconstruction projects that influence their daily lives, then aid as a tool of public diplomacy will be effective. Indigenous capacities to manage development can reach their potential only when local people are in charge of rebuilding essential and major sectors of their own economic, social, and cultural life.

Jason Ben-Meir
New Mexico, Albuquerque
USA


Call for Bigley

Sir- In response to the recent video broadcast of Kenneth Bigley, who is still being held hostage two weeks after his kidnapping by the Al-Zarqawi organisation in Iraq, the Iraq Solidarity Campaign (UK), which I chair, is calling on Mr Al- Zarqawi to release Mr Bigley unharmed. Bigley, in the broadcast stated: "My life is cheap. He (Tony Blair) doesn't care about me...Mr Blair says he won't negotiate with terrorists." The British prime minister has called on Al-Zarqawi to contact the British government directly. The reasons for Bigley's detainment is because his captors are calling for the release of Iraqi women who are being held by the American forces because of possible high level connections to Saddam Hussein's now deposed Al-Baath Party.

There is a wide range of condemnation to the kidnapping of Kenneth Bigley by Al-Zarqawi, from Iraqis and Iraqi organisations, inside and outside of the country, who feel that the actions by the Jordanian, only serve to increase the growing social problems that have been brought about by the invasion and current occupation. Many Iraqis feel that their efforts at establishing an independent Iraq, a country which is governed free from outside interference, is being highjacked by outside organisations who are coming into Iraq and are claiming to act on behalf of the Iraqi people.

For every Iraqi who has suffered as a consequence of Al-Baath Party policy, UN imposed sanctions, war, depleted uranium and the current occupation, the tragedies that have befallen the people of Iraq can and must be resolved by those whom the tragedies have struck. It is not the job of outside organisations to march into Iraq, kidnap civilians and aid workers and make demands on the British or Americans, just like it was not the job of Mr Bush and Mr Blair to march into Iraq and "liberate" the people in the very first place -- under the false pretext of weapons of mass destruction.

As Iraqis, we know the injustice that has been struck against Iraq. We know the histories of Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz. We know what it is like to have the bodies of our murdered comrades and relatives dug out of graves and have our families separated.

We also know that the responsibility for the invasion and occupation, lies not with Kenneth Bigley, his family, the ordinary working people of the United Kingdom or the long suffering people of Iraq.

Mr Al-Zarqawi, the responsibility lies with the British prime minister and the foreign policies of New Labour. This is why we ask of you, to release Mr Kenneth Bigley unharmed.

Hussein Al-Alak
Manchester
UK


Culture and peace

Sir- With reference to your article 'Culture and peace', ( Al- Ahram Weekly, 9-15 September ), Naguib Mahfouz twice makes reference to the need for "common people" to change their minds, as a step towards attitudes and behaviour that ultimately leads to peace. I agree, with the concept, but I also understand, that in much of the world, "common people" are often illiterate, uneducated, purposefully kept misinformed, and bound by traditions that don't encourage reflective or investigative thinking.

Change isn't viewed as something to attempt, look forward to or embrace.

This is the state of the common man and woman and this relates to people of both developed and developing nations. My "beef" is with the so-called leaders of the world, the heads of government and the repulsive, antiquated concepts that they obviously still live by and base their actions upon. For example, George Bush's idea that he can (and on some days during his campaign can't) win the "war on terrorism" by bombing, imprisoning, and killing the "Terrorists" is ludicrous. I can tell you how to end the war -- it starts with dialogue. And the first question which must be asked with an open and sincere heart and mind to understand the response is, "Tell me why you are so angry with me?" In America, the leaders answered that question for themselves, and fed the mass mind rationales that suited their objectives and political needs. And these leaders Mr Mahfouz, are supposed to be qualified to be in positions of leadership (Bush not included). I can't say that they aren't educated, informed or have access to knowledge. But in my opinion, it is shameful and embarrassing the obvious absence of any evolved thought, degree of sophistication, or enlightenment that their thinking demonstrates in our world.

We need the leaders to change their minds -- those whose first reaction is a violent response; Leaders that think they should only talk to leaders they feel are worthy of verbal exchange; leaders that call themselves democratic, but are not open to, nor adhere to, the will of the people. Travelling the world, I have met the hearts of "common people", and in truth, it's the minds of these "Big Fools" that worry me.

Kentke d'Eorem
Los Angeles
USA

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